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College Football Playoff Confirms 5-7 Format for 12-Team Playoff

The guidelines for college football’s 12-team playoff are officially in place.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

The guidelines for college football’s 12-team playoff are officially in place.

The CFP on Tuesday confirmed what’s being labeled the 5-7 format: five conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams. It’s a modification from a 6-6 format following the doom of the Pac-12.

Under the new format, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be slotted in seeds one through four and receive a first-round bye.  Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in the New Year’s Six Bowls while the final will be at a neutral site.

No conference will automatically qualify, though it’ll be quite the anomaly if champions of the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten and ACC don’t get in. And perhaps more importantly, there is no cap on the number of teams that one conference can get in.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” said Dr. Mark Keenum, President of Mississippi State University and Chair of the CFP Board of Managers. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

So, putting that format into last season, here is what the CFP would’ve looked like (with the Pac-12 still alive):

No. 1 Michigan — bye
No. 2 Washington — bye
No. 3 Texas — bye
No. 4 Alabama — bye
No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State
No. 11 Ole Miss at No. 6 Georgia
No. 10 Penn State at No. 7 Ohio State
No. 9 Missouri at No. 8 Oregon

With the fall of the Pac-12, that means the highest-ranked Group of Five champion would get a spot, which some years would mean the team ranked No. 12 in the final CFP rankings wouldn’t get in.

This format would have seen Oklahoma State get in during the 2021 season. By my math (which isn’t great), the Cowboys would’ve played at Ole Miss in the first round of that tournament.

Some are worried that more playoff spots will dilute the regular season games, but there is an argument to be made that winning your conference means even more now given that, in most cases, a Power Four team winning a conference title would grant that team a bye into the second round.

This also sets up for what ought to be a fun Year 1 of the new-look Big 12 that doesn’t have a clear favorite entering the year with teams like OSU, Utah, Kansas State and Arizona all competing to represent the league in the 12-team playoff.

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